Today the California state capitol’s daily newspaper featured
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Ways you may support Proposition 19 are found at http://www.taxcannabis.org/
It’s not what others do – it’s what YOU do.
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Dale Gieringer, Special to The Bee
Note: Dale Gieringer is the California director of the marijuana
legalization group NORML, the National Organization for Reformof
RISK OF STONED DRIVERS MINIMAL WITH PROP. 19
Critics of this November’s Proposition 19 initiative to legalize
marijuana are raising concerns that it could lead to an epidemic of
road accidents by pot-impaired drivers.
Because accidents, unlike other purported hazards of marijuana, pose
a risk to non-users, such concerns deserve to be addressed seriously.
Fortunately, there exists extensive evidence showing that marijuana,
unlike alcohol, does not pose a major highway safety hazard, and that
liberal marijuana laws have no adverse impact on highway safety.
Studies on marijuana and driving safety are remarkably consistent,
though greatly under-publicized because they fail to support the
government’s anti-pot line. Eleven different studies of more than
50,000 fatal accidents have found that drivers with marijuana-only in
their system are on average no more likely to cause accidents than
those with low, legal levels of alcohol below the threshold for DUI.
The major exception is when marijuana is combined with alcohol, which
tends to be highly dangerous.
Several studies have failed to detect any increased accident risk
from marijuana at all. The reason for pot’s relative safety appears
to be that it tends to make users drive more slowly, while alcohol
makes them speed up.
Thus legalization could actually reduce accidents if more drivers
used marijuana instead of alcohol, but it could also increase them if
there were more combined use of the two.
So what will happen if California approves Proposition 19? Contrary
to the claims of some opponents, Proposition 19 does not change
current laws against driving under the influence. Nor would it bar
testing of bus drivers or other safety-critical workers, as some have
alleged; in fact, it explicitly protects the right of employers to
address consumption that impairs job performance. Nor would it
override federal drug-free work-force rules any more than did Proposition 215.
Nor would legalization necessarily dramatically increase the number
of pot smokers. Studies have consistently failed to find any
relationship between marijuana laws and usage rates. In the
Netherlands, where marijuana is publicly available in coffee shops,
usage is only half that in the United States. The Netherlands also
boasts one of Europe’s lowest road fatality rates, well below its neighbors.
Similarly, California, despite having the freest medical marijuana
regime in the nation, ranks 18th among states in marijuana use and
boasts a highway fatality rate well below the national average.
Proposition 19 critics cite a recent report by retired researcher Al
Crancer warning that the percentage of fatal drivers with marijuana
in their blood has increased in California since 2004. (This doesn’t
mean that marijuana necessarily caused the accidents, just that the
drivers had used it in the past hours or days). Crancer spuriously
blames this on the legalization of medical marijuana, but that
happened in 1996, not 2004. Moreover, his data suggest similar trends
in other states.
In fact, California ranks 14th in the nation in the rate of marijuana
involvement in accidents, well behind states with tougher marijuana
laws such as South Carolina, Indiana and Missouri. Crancer’s data
also show that two of the state’s most pot-friendly counties, San
Francisco and Santa Cruz, had zero pot-related road fatalities in
2008. All of this shows that liberal access to pot doesn’t
necessarily mean more DUIs.
Still, it seems reasonable to assume that legalization would increase
the number of pot users. A Rand Corp. report on legalization
envisions a possible doubling in usage in California bringing us
back to the same level as in the late 1970s, when marijuana use peaked.
You don’t remember an epidemic of highway accidents back when pot was
so popular? That’s because it didn’t happen. U.S. accident rates
declined steadily throughout the 1960s and ’70s, even while tens of
millions of Americans were introduced to marijuana. Happily, accident
rates have declined steadily since records were kept, thanks to
improved technology, safer roads, better enforcement and public education.
Californians have little reason to fear an epidemic of auto accidents
if Proposition 19 passes. New users would include many law-abiding
persons who were previously deterred by its illegality and who would
be more apt to respect DUI laws than today’s scofflaw users. Other
problems could be controlled by common-sense enforcement and
regulations, such as discouraging combined sales of liquor and pot.
Long ago, the architect of marijuana prohibition, Federal Bureau of
Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, warned that legalizing
marijuana would mean "slaughter on the highways." Anslinger also
warned that pot turned users into homicidal assassins, maniacs and
addicts. Then as now, the public would be wise to disregard such
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Page: A1, Front Page
Copyright: 2010 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee
WEED GOES MAINSTREAM
John Wade, 43, a San Francisco commercial lighting specialist, takes
a quick hit from a marijuana cigarette on the golf course to steady
himself before putting.
Sarika Simmons, 35, of San Diego County, sometimes unwinds after the
kids are asleep with tokes from a fruit-flavored cigar filled with pot.
And retiree Robert Girvetz, 78, of San Juan Capistrano, recently
started anew – replacing his occasional martini with marijuana.
"It’s a little different than I remember," he says. "A couple of hits
– and wooooo…."
As California voters prepare to decide in November whether to become
the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, a new
Field Poll conducted for The Sacramento Bee reveals that weed already
is deeply woven into society.
Those who use the drug, and their reasons for doing it, may be as
diverse as the state itself.
Forty-two percent of adults who described themselves as current users
in the July poll said they smoke pot to relieve pain or treat a
health condition. Thirty-nine percent use it recreationally, to
socialize or have fun with friends.
Sixty percent say marijuana helps them relax or sleep. Twenty-four
percent say it stimulates their creativity.
Historically, marijuana use in California remains lower than during
peak years of the late 1970s. But voters’ approval of Proposition
215, the Compassionate Use Act – which made the state the first to
legalize medical marijuana – is changing the social dynamic,
according to poll results and interviews with users in 15 counties.
"It’s certainly likely that post-Proposition 215, it has become more
mainstream and the base of users has broadened," said Craig
Reinarman, a UC Santa Cruz sociology professor who has studied
marijuana in society.
Other measures back the Field Poll findings:
. More than 400,000 Californians use marijuana daily, according to
the state Board of Equalization. And state residents consume 16
million ounces of weed a year, from legal and illegal sources.
. More than 3.4 million Californians smoked pot in 2008, according
to the latest research by the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health.
And, in the Field Poll, 47 percent of registered voters said they
have used marijuana at least once in their life. That exceeds the
registration of any political party in the state.
Marijuana use in California extends well beyond any stoner stereotype.
"I don’t walk around in Bob Marley T-shirts or have a marijuana flag
in my room," said Kyle Printz, 44, a Marin County software engineer.
Printz occasionally smokes pot after writing computer code – "and
dealing with zeros and ones all day long." He said, "It alters your
state of mind a bit and does help you relax."
Deborah Pottle, 56, a disabled former state corrections officer from
Modesto, has a physician’s recommendation for marijuana for her back
injuries and a precancerous condition. She prefers cannabis in
lozenges and brownies and melds pot flakes into spaghetti sauce and
"I find it better by a long shot than … trying to keep pills down,"
said Pottle, who sees marijuana only as a medical remedy – not recreation.
Nationally, more than 100 million Americans have tried marijuana, and
10 states – led by Rhode Island, Vermont and Alaska – have higher per
capita use than the Golden State.
But in California, a proliferating industry of medical cannabis
dispensaries, offering exotic strains such as "Blue Dream," "Train
Wreck" or "Green Crack," helps supply a vast market, including many
people who never venture inside a pot shop.
According to the state Board of Equalization, California marijuana
dispensaries – intended to serve bona fide medical users, including
AIDS, cancer and chronic pain sufferers – produce up to $1.3 billion
in marijuana transactions for people reporting a vast range of ills.
"I’m sure there are people who suffer from any number of maladies
that seek therapy from marijuana use," said Sacramento County Sheriff
John McGinness. "But for at least as many, I think it’s a ruse for
healthy people who enjoy the effects of marijuana.
"That’s how they obtain it without hassle."
Illegal Trafficking Persists
Ngaio Bealum, editor of West Coast Cannabis, a 50,000-circulation
lifestyle publication that bills itself as the Sunset magazine of
weed, says the dispensary evolution and sophisticated growing
techniques are changing California’s pot culture.
But he said illegal marijuana trafficking lives on to satisfy the demand.
"The old-school weed man still exists, but he’s had to step his game
up," Bealum said. "Now when you go to the clubs (dispensaries),
you’ve got 50 different kinds" of pot strains. "The weed man now has
to offer a few different kinds – and start making brownies, too."
California decriminalized marijuana use and possession 34 years ago.
People caught with less than an ounce face a misdemeanor that carries
a $100 fine. Those with medical recommendations now can legally
possess up to 8 ounces.
Bealum says readily available weed – and the reduced stigma and
penalties – make people less wary of consequences.
"As the boomers get older, those guys realized it is really no big
deal," he said. "And the younger kids don’t think it’s a big deal,
because their parents used to do it."
The July Field Poll shows plummeting support for tougher marijuana
laws and increased backing for softer penalties. Yet marijuana
arrests continue to rise.
In 2008, California authorities cited 61,388 people on misdemeanor
pot offenses and 17,126 for felonies such as illegal trafficking,
cultivation or possession for sale. Total arrests were up by nearly
one-third since 2003.
According to the Bee-commissioned poll, current marijuana use is most
prevalent in the Bay Area and Northern California, including North
Coast and Sierra Nevada counties with pot-receptive climates and
cultures. Use is lower in the Central Valley and lowest in San
And, following previous trends, reported pot use is higher among
whites than African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups.
All Ages and Lifestyles
Marijuana has found niches in the California lifestyle with young
people starting their careers, affluent baby boomers and urban professionals.
Ryan Issaco, a 21-year-old San Jose college senior bound for law
school, says he gets marijuana from friends with medical cards or
from acquaintances who bring weed from North Coast pot-growing
regions to the Silicon Valley.
He lights a water pipe and explores "different avenues on the issues"
with companions. "I love to talk politics when I’m a little high," Issaco said.
Californians age 40 to 49 – people who grew up a decade or more
removed from the hippie era and the Summer of Love – are most likely
to have used marijuana at some point in their lives, the poll showed.
Though current use is highest among people between 18 and 29 and
earning less than $40,000 a year, pot also is finding a significant
foothold among many reaching their prime career earning years.
Steven Keegan, 40, a Los Angeles sporting goods designer, earns more
than $100,000 marketing to Fortune 500 companies. He says he smokes
pot before a typical weekend day spent with his girlfriend at L.A.’s
At bedtime, he relaxes with "Woody Harrelson" – a popular cannabis
strain named for the actor, an outspoken booster of marijuana use.
"I can come home from work and if I’m up at night thinking about
various projects, I’ll just take a hit and … I can go to sleep," Keegan said.
John Wade, who does lighting and production for weddings and
corporate events, uses his "one hitter" – a miniature pipe that looks
like a cigarette – to sneak smokes at Giants baseball games, on ski
lifts – and on the golf course.
"You don’t want to smoke too much because it can make the game
worse," he said. "But I’ve taken a hit and gone off and had a couple
of good holes. I seem to be able to focus on my putting better."
According to the Field Poll, the overwhelming majority of current pot
smokers prefer to use it at home or a friend’s house. Smaller numbers
say they enjoy it at parties, concerts or outdoors.
Simmons, of San Marcos, sometimes retreats to a patio to relieve
stress once her three daughters are asleep and won’t notice.
"I don’t even like the smell of it on my hands or body," she said.
"I’m very discreet about it."
Some Share ‘Medical Pot’
Dawn Sanford, a call center data entry worker from Sacramento, said
she rarely buys marijuana herself. But she reaches out to friends
with a ready supply or a medical recommendation.
Sanford has never seen a physician for a pot referral but suffers
occasional panic attacks. Sometimes, she said, she calls a female
friend who uses marijuana for anxiety to ask, "Can we do this please?"
The potential for pot purchased at medical dispensaries to be
diverted for recreational use is prompting efforts to prevent
patients from reselling or giving away pot.
Purchasers are limited to 2 ounces a week at Harborside Health
Center, which serves 48,000 medical users through its Oakland and San
Jose dispensaries. The Oakland outlet alone handles $20 million a
year in marijuana transactions, according to the center.
Harborside bans cell phones or money exchanges on dispensary
premises. It looks for people whose approach – such as buying up
particular pot strains or purchasing in multiple quantities – suggest
they may be planning to resell it.
"We’ve trained our staff to identify transactions that may be
suspicious," said Harborside Director Steve DeAngelo. "When you have
dual markets, one legal and one illegal, existing side-by-side,
you’re going to have the issue of diversion."
Many marijuana users have friends who bring home dispensary pot as
easily as picking up the groceries.
So in Riverside County, Annette Drennan, 30, an amateur astrologer
who is taking a class on meditation, enjoys smoking with her
boyfriend – a pot patient – because "when I get stoned I can really
feel the present."
Sociologist Reinarman said, "The line that separates recreational use
from medical use is blurred" by the infusion of medical pot into
California’s popular culture.
"There is no contradiction from people who sometimes use it for pain
or sometimes use it for sleep or sometimes use it because it is fun
and or stimulates their creativity," he said.
The notion offends Lanette Davies, who runs Sacramento’s Canna Care
dispensary, which serves 5,000 registered marijuana patients.
Davies believes many illicit marijuana users may be self-medicating
for undiagnosed medical conditions. But she said, "I don’t support
people using strictly for recreation. If you want to take Vicodin
simply because it feels good, that doesn’t make it OK."
While many dispensaries pitch exotic pot strains, such as "Grandaddy
Grape Ape" and "Brainstorm Haze," as if they were prize-winning
vintages of wine, Canna Care rejected the common name of one popular
variety. It changed "Green Crack" to "Green Lady" to avoid an appeal
to recreational users.
"We will not put up ‘crack,’" Davies said.
Marketing Approaches Vary
Pot marketing is booming with the burgeoning medical marijuana industry.
MediCann, a California physicians network that has overseen referrals
for more than 200,000 patients, portrays medicinal marijuana use as a
Its "typical stoner" ad campaign features photos of real estate
agents, marketing executives, veterans, community volunteers,
professors and plumbers who find relief for anxiety, arthritis,
nausea, sleeplessness or back pain.
By contrast, an advertisement for Los Angeles’ Grateful Meds
dispensary appears to pitch mind-altering rewards.
"The place where patients are high-spirited!" says an ad in a Los
Angeles pot culture magazine. With depictions of semi-nude women, the
advertisement offers free joints or pot brownies for each new "patient."
"This is what we’ve come to," said John Redman, executive director of
Californians for Drug Free Youth. Such appeals attract young adults
and make a drug culture attractive to teens, he said. "How is it that
we as a society cannot look at that?"
Redman contends depictions of pot as a cool and natural alternative
to other drugs are akin to the Joe Camel ads that were blamed for
drawing kids to cigarettes.
According to national drug survey data, one-third of current
California marijuana users are 18 to 25. Twelve percent – nearly
425,000 – are ages 12 to 17.
Lure Surprises Some
The complexity and lure of the contemporary pot market surprises even
some veteran users such as Wade, who started smoking as a teenager.
As a grown-up, he cited occasional hives and rashes to get a
physician’s recommendation. That entitled him to shop dispensaries
featuring scores of marijuana varieties. They include cannabis sativa
plants – said to produce a cerebral high; indica plants – considered
body relaxants; and crossbred plants said to offer both medicinal effects.
Some strains pack a greater psychoactive punch than Wade was ready
for. "I found them too strong," he said.
Wade has a favorite – "Blackberry Kush," an indica strain he says has
"great flavor" and crystal-like texture that "looks like someone took
the buds and rolled them in sugar."
The new culture is luring back former pot smokers, too.
Robert Girvetz tried marijuana more than 40 years ago, indulged for a
few years and moved on with little nostalgia. But then, well into his
70s and "very much retired" from running a window-covering business,
he was reintroduced by friends and relatives.
A cousin gave Girvetz a vaporizer that let him use pot without
lighting up. Preferring marijuana to cocktails, he savors it "once
every couple of months, just for kicks."
Girvetz did have one notable bad experience. "I ate a whole (pot)
brownie when I shouldn’t have," he said. "I almost had to crawl out
of my chair to get into bed."
Suggestions for writing letters are at our Media Activism Center
For facts about marijuana please see http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/53
Prepared by: Richard Lake, Focus Alert Specialist http://www.mapinc.org
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